Autoimmune diseases are diseases that essentially kick the immune system into overdrive. They make the immune system attack healthy tissues by mistake. Because the immune system is busy trying to mistakenly fight healthy cells, it sometimes doesn’t have the strength to fight off real enemies, like viruses and bacteria. That means that on top of dealing with the autoimmune disease, sufferers are also at an increased risk for infections.
There are several kinds of autoimmune diseases that can affect older adults. 5 of them are described below.
#1: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in the joints and other areas of the body, including the heart, lungs, eyes, and blood vessels. The body’s immune system attacks joint linings, which eventually leads to bones being eroded away and the joints becoming deformed. People with rheumatoid arthritis experience swollen, tender joints, fatigue, and joint stiffness.
The bodies of people with lupus form antibodies that attach to bodily tissues. It causes inflammation in many of the body’s systems, including the skin, kidneys, joints, brain, and heart. Doctors believe that most people who get lupus are born with a predisposition toward it that is triggered by other factors, like an infection. The telltale symptom of lupus is a rash that spreads over the cheeks and bridge of the nose, resembling the shape of a butterfly.
#3: Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks myelin, which is the coating that covers and protects nerves. When the myelin is degraded, nerves are injured, causing a variety of symptoms. Some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis are numbness in limbs on one side of the body, tremors, double vision, fatigue, and dizziness.
#4: Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease, commonly called IBD, happens when the immune system attacks the digestive tract lining. This results in symptoms like diarrhea, fever, fatigue, poor appetite, and abdominal pain.
Psoriasis is a kind of skin condition that happens when the immune system makes the skin produce skin cells too rapidly. As a result, the skin develops red, scaly patches that itch and burn. In some people, joints also become stiff and swollen.
If your aging relative has an autoimmune disease, elder care can assist them to live better with the condition. An elder care provider can remind the senior to take medications prescribed for the condition. They can also help with tasks that may be difficult because of disease symptoms, such as cleaning the house or cooking meals. Elder care providers can also offer support and companionship, which can be important since living with a chronic disease can impact emotional health.